Halloween 4

Halloween 4 (1988)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Donald Pleasance, Danielle Harris
Extras: Theatrical Trailers

While we are all eagerly awaiting Anchor Bay’s release of the fully restored "Halloween" in their special edition, they are sending "Halloween 4 – The Return Of Michael Myers" our way, almost as if to tease fans of the series for what is about to come. The "Halloween" series has been a mixed blessing, just as most other horror franchises that have been sucked lifeless over their long lives. Starting with the fascinating original in 1978 by cult director John Carpenter, it was soon followed by another strong entry, "Halloween 2", only to be followed by a true bomb. Fortunately the filmmakers refocused their efforts in the 1988 movie "Halloween 4" and actually created one of the strongest entries in the entire series. No other film in the series has been so close to the original, so true to Carpenter’s suspenseful approach and visually as striking as the movie that started the series. Until "Halloween 4" came around that is, because this movie incorporates everything we loved about the original, bringing the series back to a new height.

Ten years after the incidents of the original "Halloween" movie, Michael Myers is transferred from his high security mental institution to a different facility one day, when a tragic accident happens. The van that is used to take him to the new institution is thrown off the road and bursts into flames. In panic, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) rushes to the accident site where the van seemingly skidded off the road and finds his worst fears confirmed. His nemesis, serial killer Michael Myers’ body is missing from the wreckage. Somehow he must have managed to break free once again, and soon Michael Myers finds himself back on his way to Haddonfield to get even with his family, intent to wreak havoc on mankind once again.

Dr. Loomis follows Michael’s bloody trail and upon further investigation finds out that this time, Michael is after his own niece Jamie (Danielle Harris), Laurie Strode’s daughter. Completely underestimating Michael’s powers, authorities are caught off-guard and Dr. Loomis has to take matters into his own hands once again, while an angry mob assembles on the streets that very Halloween night, shooting everyone who looks like Michael Myers. Unfortunately Michael Myers’ mask has been one of the best-selling Halloween costumes that year, making them responsible for a chaotic blood bath that allows the real monster to close in on his victim.

Completely in the spirit of the original "Halloween", this film uses many of the stylistic elements that were prevalent in Carpenter’s film. It is not simply a rehash however, adding some interesting elements, and most importantly some very unexpected twists to the scenario. Especially the fact that the viewer is often left in the dark as to which one the real Michael Myers is creates a very suspenseful and dramatic angle the earlier parts in the series didn’t have. The innocence of the young Jamie, remarkably well played by Danielle Harris, works perfectly to contrast with Michael’s relentless and merciless bloodshed. But also director Dwight H. Little’s stylish direction helps a lot to create an aura of fear and enigma around Michael, and especially the rooftop scene is a showcase of skillfully implemented suspense in stalker films.

"Halloween 4" is beautifully photographed and the film’s atmospheric cinematography establishes are very ominous, fantastic feel that is very realistic, yet very stylized at the same time. Split-second shots of Michael here, a looming backlit shape there, it all adds up to create a memorable and highly visual horror film. While gruesome at times, the film never becomes a splatter movie and uses blood and gore appropriately scarcely, and as a result to great effect.

"Halloween 4" obviously uses the same stalker theme that had been established years before but interestingly in this particular part of the series it doesn’t feel repeated. Instead of the "seen-that, done-that" problem many sequels encounter, "Halloween 4" creates a feeling of intimate familiarity. The locations, the cinematography and the direction of the film create a feeling that resembles more of a homecoming than that of a sequel.

Anchor Bay Entertainment once again show how much the value their assets, giving "Halloween 4" a remarkable treatment on this disc. This version of the film looks better than any other transfer I have seen before. The image is sharp and well defined and it seems to come from an entirely cleaned-up print. There are no speckles or dust evident throughout the film, making this a fantastic looking release. Anchor Bay presents "Halloween 4" in its original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio in a non-<$16x9,anamorphic> transfer. The color reproduction is well balanced, rendering fleshtones very naturally, yet bringing out the gorgeous blue hues that are so dominant in this particular film without any noise or oversaturation. The level of detail is very good and even in the murky interior scenes and forebodingly dark establishing shots every little detail is clearly visible. There are no compression artifacts on the disc, creating an image that is well balanced and absolutely stunning.

The same is true for the film’s audio track, presented in a new <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> remix on this DVD. The soundtrack is very clear and transparent sounding with a good sonic range. Bass extension is good, although not overly aggressive, which is also true for the split surrounds. Dialogue is well produced and is never drowned out by the music or the sound effects. Alan Howarth – a long-time collaborator of John Carpenter who has also been remastering and remixing the entire soundtrack for the "Halloween Special Edition" – has contributed the musical score for the film. From eerie, dissonant clusters to atmospheric motives and a slightly updated interpretation of the original "Halloween" theme, Howarth has always found the right tone to enhance the images on the screen. It is great to see the score presented in its entire clarity here on this disc.

To me "Halloween 4" has always been the best in all the sequels to John Carpenter’s masterful stalker film, and seeing in such a great presentation on this DVD only emphasizes this feeling. Much of the dramatic atmosphere had been lost in previous home video versions of the film and it almost seems as if you see "Halloween 4" in color for the first time. It’s like a veil has been lifted from the film. As a fan of the series there can be no doubt that you can’t afford to miss "Halloween 4 – The Return Of Michael Myers" on this DVD!